Fantastic cultures and long term success don’t just happen by mistake. They’re the result of principled actions and strategy. This is how Rich Blaser and Infinite Energy cultivated the highly recognized and successful culture it maintains today.
Infinite Energy, a natural gas and electric provider based in Florida, maintains a candid, open culture. The culture has been recognized not just by outside observers — but by their own team members most of all. Their designation as one of the best places to work in Florida was determined by surveying employees throughout the company on a number of key factors.
So, what are leaders to do to build a culture like the one like Infinite Energy’s? During a recent conversation, I asked Rich Blaser just that and he offered some key actionable strategies.
Start from the top
Culture is the responsibility of the top of the company or department.
Rich Blaser, CEO of Infinite Energy
One of the number one reasons that culture initiatives fail, and sink into dysfunction, is because leaders are seen to talk one way and act another. As Rich Blaser emphasizes, organizational culture is a reflection of its leadership. Simply put, if organizational leadership isn’t fully invested in the culture — no one will be.
So, to build and sustain a desirable culture, organizational leaders must be the first and most devoted adherents. They must actively show what the desired values look like in action and help their team members as these values cascade throughout the organization.
Bridge the gaps
Too often, companies siphon off their values — limiting them to marketing slogans and having them take up space on a company website. But this, of course, is the opposite of what organizations should be doing. One of the key factors that have led to Infinite Energy’s success is that everything the company does is treated as a testament to its values. “Everything has to match the culture,” says Rich, “if something is not congruent, then work on putting it in order.”
This commitment to applying their values to everything is why they created an employee handbook that people actually want to read. Instead of leaving the handbook as it was from the legal team — they handed it over to the marketers to apply their creativity and to express the spirit of Infinite Energy’s culture.
Their leadership has done a lot to ensure their values are lived — but the leadership can’t be everywhere all the time — so, they’ve placed a lot of trust in their team to do the right thing. Meaning that they give them a great deal of problem-solving autonomy and encourage them to speak their minds. The most junior member of Infinite Energy can raise a concern all the way to the executive team if need be.
Include the whole team
With all the trust Infinite Energy places on their team to represent their values, they need every employee to be aligned and well integrated into the company. This is an area they are careful to ensure.
A major aspect of Infinite Energy’s hiring process is asking what aspects of their culture they resonate with most. Before each interview, they send information regarding their values and culture to prospective employees. If nothing resonated with them, or they didn’t read what was sent, the interview is simply over.
The process doesn’t end at ensuring a good fit. Once hired, care is taken to integrate each employee. This is done prominently with new employee lunches These lunches, lasting several hours, allow executives and new team members to get to know each other.
Autonomy and responsibility
As mentioned above, Infinite Energy’s team members have a great deal of responsibility and autonomy when it comes to living the company’s values. But what does that look like for their day to day interactions?
For Infinite Energy, it means the one-call resolution and an obsessive focus on customer experience.
This was determined when the leadership noticed that customers were getting bounced around to several people to resolve a single issue. Sure, they were getting plenty of service, but their experience was far from what it could have been. Customer service, Rich says “is a department,” but better customer experience comes when you “empower the employee to solve problems and make decisions.”
Now, the one-call resolution is the key metric that Infinite Energy uses to gauge company and employee performance.
Really listening to your people
You want to personalize your business as much as possible.
Rich Blaser, CEO of Infinite Energy
When it comes to listening, there is no substitute. As Rich emphatically states, “When someone is talking about your company, you listen.” For Rich, this means you’re not distracted looking at your phone or thinking about your next appointment — you’re listening intently and focusing on the employee and what they have to say.
This isn’t just a principle for managers and their direct reports — but for the leadership to the whole team. At Infinite Energy, if someone has an issue they can keep going up the chain of command all the way to Rich himself. Because “if they didn’t care they wouldn’t go through all the trouble of saying anything.”
But it can be daunting for junior team members to bring up big issues to higher-ups. So they keep a digital suggestion box that is consistently read and actively responded to. Respondents don’t have to offer their names, but, if they do, a senior leader will respond within 48 hours.